Aleppo now continues to be the focus of a renewed and nasty propaganda war, with US and Western officials claiming the Syrian regime has been bombing civilian or moderate opposition targets in breach of the ceasefire. Both points – firstly that these are ‘moderate’ opposition targets, and secondly that the Syrian regime has been breaching the cease fire agreement – are refuted, meaning essentially that there’s no real way to know the truth of the matter.
More than 200 civilians, including 35 children, are reported to have been killed as violence erupted again this week, apparently leaving the ceasefire agreement in doubt.
We all know the drill by now, however. When Western officials and corporate media report that an MSF hospital has been destroyed by unknown aircraft, this is basically code for ‘We Did It – But We’re Going to Blame Assad’. We’ve seen all of this strategy before, with the Houla massacre or with the chemical attacks in 2013.
The hospital bombing in recent days, which has sparked outrage, has been blamed on the Syrian government by most Western media, including the comedy act of the US State Department. Both Russian and Syrian officials have refuted this accusation, which in fact is a sequel to the bombing of hospitals that occurred in February, which Washington blamed on Russia, but which Russia accused the US of having carried out.
Just as previous instances, most Western media has fallen into line with the US State Department, running the by-now-familiar stories of ‘Assad, the Butcher’, etc. Even The Guardian, I am disappointed to see, has followed this line, providing a one-sided story and portraying events in Aleppo purely as a regime massacre. It’s worth nothing, however, that their main source appears to be the ‘White Helmets’ (see Vanessa Beeley’s analysis of White Helmets and war propaganda here).
What isn’t highlighted, however, is that for the last several days the government-held parts of Aleppo (and the 2,000,000 inhabitants and refugees there) seem to have been under bombardment with improvised gas-canister mortars and rockets from the al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) side.
The idea that Aleppo is filled with ‘moderate’ opposition is generally refuted. And if you’re experiencing deja vu, it’s probably because you remember that the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and co have played this game before, like when they insisted the Libyan government forces under Gaddafi were carrying out ‘massacres’ in Tripoli and Benghazi when in fact they were simply attempting to retake territories that had been seized by Al-Qaeda and other foreign-backed jihadists/mercenaries.
And just as the much-referenced Benghazi massacre was in fact a Western government/media fiction, we would do well to question the Aleppo narrative now.
According to Russian officials on April 12th, some 10,000 al-Nusra militants were surrounding Aleppo, planning to blockade the city. Russian officials have confirmed that the rebels in Aleppo are primarily al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda – and exempt from the ceasefire) and have asked the United States to prove otherwise. Far from proving otherwise, even US government officials appear to have been acknowledging in recent days that Syrian Army targets in Aleppo are primarily Al-Qaeda – and therefore exempt from the ceasefire agreement.
A week and a half ago, Col. Steve Warren, the US military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that it was “primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities”. This implied fairly clearly that the Syrian government would not be breaching the ceasefire agreement if it tried to attack them.
In February, the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, had confirmed that “foreign terrorists” and not Syrians were trying to prolong the conflict, saying that “foreign jihadists have been given the green light to intensify the bombing of civilians.”
Mons. Georges Abou Khazen, reported “We have been under continuous bombardment in Aleppo with civilian deaths, injuries and destruction… and these attacks are being carried out by the so-called ‘moderate opposition groups’.” The prelate crucially pointed the finger at the front defended by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the West. Crucially, he also suggested that the escalation represented the desire to “derail the peace negotiations” by “regional forces” that he believed were trying to prevent Aleppo being liberated from terrorist control.
In all likelihood, it has been al-Nusra escalating the fighting, quite likely encouraged by their foreign backers, in the full expectation that government forces would have to retaliate – and that this retaliation could then be spun into a ‘vicious regime attack’ narrative.
This latest round of propaganda is presumably attempting to derail the peace initiative, so that the much-talked-about ‘Plan B’ can be initiated – ‘Plan B’ (which is essentially ‘Plan A, Part 2’) is basically to resume arming and backing rebel groups. Which seems to have been going on anyway – even during the ceasefire – with the US recently allegedly delivering 3,000 tons of weapons and ammunition to anti-regime fighters (including al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda), most of who aren’t Syrians anyway.
And so on it goes.
Supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stormed Baghdad’s highly fortified, US established Green Zone, also home to the US Embassy, uninvited, the biggest in the world.
All staff of the Japanese, French, British, Australian, Jordanian, Emirates and Saudi Arabia Embassies have moved in to into the American Embassy, it is being reported.
Entrances have been reported sealed and tight security imposed to protect the Iraq Central Bank and other government banks, says an unconfirmed report. However, the Guardian contradicts stating that: “A guard at a checkpoint said the protesters had not been searched before entering. About ten members of the armed group loyal to Sadr were checking protesters cursorily while government security forces who usually conduct careful searches with bomb-sniffing dogs stood by the side.”
Moreover: “Rudaw TV showed protesters chanting and taking selfies inside the parliament chamber where moments earlier MPs had been meeting.”
As Al Jazeera explains: “It is the climax of weeks of political turmoil in Iraq that has seen MPs hold a sit-in, brawl in the parliament chamber and seek to sack the speaker, stalling Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s efforts to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats.”
The further chaos comes just two days after US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad in a situation so chaotic for the US’ puppet government that as the New York Times described it (28th April 2016) “… the political situation in Iraq has become so fluid that Mr. Biden’s team has sometimes been unsure whether officials he planned to meet with would still be in office when he arrived.”
America’s fortress Green Zone has been breached with thousands of protestors breaking in, with one shouting: “You are not staying here! This is your last day in the Green Zone”, according to Al Jazeera who reported that in Parliament: “… some rioters rampaged through the building and broke into offices, while other protesters shouted: “peacefully, peacefully” and tried to contain the destruction …”
Barbed wire was pulled across the road leading to the Green Zone exits: “preventing some scared lawmakers from fleeing the chaos.”
The hated US imposed and fortified Zone – which was simply central Baghdad for all to wander under Saddam Hussein has finally been breached after thirteen years. Where another period of chaos will end, who knows, but meanwhile diplomats cower in the US Embassy, as factions Iraqis patience finally runs out over the tragedy and disaster that is the US and UK’s illegally imposed “New Iraq.”
“Iraqis are very quick to revolt”, former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Tareq Aziz, told me in an interview before the invasion, listing the years and the fate of those the uprisings had been against. The decimation since has delayed a further one, but it seems it’s time has arrived.
As for the outcome, updates follow. As we have wondered before in these columns, Embassy roof time for the residents and guests of the US Ambassador – again? Vietnam’s spectre hovers?
The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.
— Albert Camus, 1913-1960
On May 1st, 2003, George W. Bush stood in a dinky little flying suit on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and in a super stage managed appearance told the lie of the century:
Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.
The illegal occupation and decimation of Iraq continued until December 2011. In June 2014 they returned to bomb again in the guise of combating ISIS. As the thirteenth anniversary of Bush’s ridiculous appearance with a vast “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him, Iraq is largely in ruins, Iraqis have fled the murderous “liberation” and its aftermath in millions, and there are over three million internally displaced.
The nation is pinned between a tyrannical, corrupt US puppet government, a homicidal, head chopping, raping, organ eating, history erasing, US-spawned ISIS – and a renewed, relentless US bombardment. So much for the 2008 US-Iraq State of Forces agreement, which stated that by 31st December 2011 “all United States forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory.”
On the USS Abraham Lincoln Bush stated:
In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world … Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free.
In what has transpired to be monumental irony, he continued:
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of al-Qaida, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.
There was, of course, no al-Qaida in Iraq, no funding of fundamentalist terrorism under Saddam Hussein. It is the invasion’s conception, birth, now reached maturity from Baghdad to Brussels, Mosul to the Maghreb, Latakia to London.
In Iraq, US terrorism from the air is back in all its genocidal force.
Incredibly on April 23rd, the Independent reported another staggering piece of either disinformation or childish naivety, in a predictably familiar script: “A spokesperson for the US military said all possible precautions were taken to avoid ‘collateral damage’”, but in approaching 7,000 airstrikes the number of confirmed civilian deaths had risen on Planet Pentagon to just – forty one.
In another past its sell by date mantra:
Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesperson for Central Command, said the casualties were “deeply regretted” but maintained that the campaign was the “the most precise air campaign in the history of warfare.”
And here’s another familiar one:
In this type of armed conflict, particularly with an enemy who hides among the civilian population, there are going to be, unfortunately, civilian casualties at times.
The Geneva Convention, amongst other Treaties, Principles and Conventions, is specific on the protections of populations in conflict, Colonel Ryder should familiarize himself with the texts.
So another onslaught in a quarter of a century of bombing Iraq is underway – another mass murder with a silly name “Operation Inherent Resolve.”
Here is reality from Dr Souad Al-Azzawi, Award winning environmental scientist who gained her Ph.D from the Colorado School of Mines.
She states of just the onslaught on Mosul, her home, the ancient university city of 1.5 million, that the stated figures from US spokespersons are: “either misinformed about the real situation on the ground, since they are using drones and guided missiles, or airstrikes blindly, intentionally not saying the truth.”
I would like to list SOME of what the Americans’ airstrikes have been targeting and killing in Mosul:
Destroyed are all state services buildings, including Municipalities in right and left sides of Mosul. When they bomb at night, all security personnel get killed or injured, also residents of close by areas, and adjacent properties are destroyed.
Bombed and destroyed all communication centers.
Destruction of Dairy Production Factories in both left and right sides of Mosul. Casualties of these two are one hundred deaths and two hundred injuries among civilians who gathered to receive milk and dairy products from the factories.
Dr Al-Azzawi reminds that this is reminiscent of the bombing of the baby milk factory outside Baghdad in 1991 with the claim it was a chemical weapons factory. This writer visited the factory ruins just months later. There were still charred containers of milk powder – the machinery was provided and maintained by a company in Birmingham, England which specialized in infant food production.
* Bombing of Mosul Pharmaceutical Industries.
* Mosul University was bombed with ninety two deaths and one hundred and thirty five injuries. Earlier estimates were higher, but many were pulled from the rubble alive. “They were students, faculty members, staff members, families of faculties, and restaurants workers.”
*Al Hadbaa and Al Khadraa Residential Apartment compounds. Fifty people killed (families) and one hundred injured.
* Hay al Dhubat residential area in the right side of Mosul, two days ago, five women women and four children killed and the whole house destroyed. The father is a respected pharmacist who has nothing to do with ISIL.
* Destruction of houses in front of the Medical College, killed twenty two civilians – eleven in one family.
* Bombing Sunni Waqif Building, twenty deaths and seventy injuries which included those in nearby commercial and residential buildings.
* Car maintenance industrial areas in both left and right sides of Mosul destroyed with civilian’s casualties.
* Bombing of flour factories in both sides of Mosul.
* Rafidain and Rasheed banks and all their branches in both sides of Mosul. Destruction of all commercial and residential areas in the vicinity of these places, with as yet unknown civilian casualties. (My emphasis.)
* Central Bank of Mosul in Ghazi Street, with nearby residential and commercial properties.
* Pepsi factory, currently producing ice cubes only. Three deaths and twelve injuries among the workers.
* The Governor’s house and close by guest house.
* Mosul’s old industrial compound destroyed, with parking area for fuel Tankers and cars. Three days ago, huge explosion of fuel tankers, one hundred and fifty deaths and injuries.
* Urban Planning Directory in Hay al Maliyah bombed.
* Engineering Planning Directory in Hay al Maliyah bombed.
* Food Storages in left side of Mosul bombed.
* Drinking water treatment plants bombed.
* All electrical generation and transformer stations in the left side of Mosul bombed.
* Domez land communications center in left side of Mosul destroyed.
*Al Hurairah Bridge – and many more.
There is a sickening familiarity to some of the targets – food, pharmaceuticals, water treatment plants, electricity generation, communications and educational facilities, bridges (the country, towns and cities are divided by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) have been favoured targets since 1991. Every time painstakingly and imaginatively restored they have been re-bombed for a quarter of a century.
During the 1990s a Canadian film crew captured footage of US ‘planes dropping flares on harvested wheat and barley, incinerating entire harvests in a country, which due to the strangulating embargo, there were near famine conditions in parts of society.
“When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our servicemen and women, they saw strength, and kindness, and good will”, said George W Bush in his “Mission Accomplished” speech.
No, they saw invaders destroying their lives, their families, their history, raping, pillaging. They saw Falluja’s destruction, Abu Ghraib’s horrors and the eleven other secret prisons and nightmares ever ongoing.
On April 25th, Dr Al-Azzawi added:
More war crimes have been committed by American Coalition, yesterday April 24, 2016. The coalition airplanes bombed Rashidiya water treatment plant left side of Mosul city and Yermouk electricity generation station in the right side of Mosul. Through targeting these populations’ life sustaining necessities, the coalition is committing genocidal action towards Mosul residents in the pretext of fighting ISIS.
Also on 25th April, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, on returning from a week in Iraq wrote starkly of the government:
Iraqis are crying out for fairness, recognition, justice, appreciation and meaningful participation in shaping their future – a process that goes forward and not backwards … We all have responsibilities towards the people of Iraq. While there is an international military coalition in place, a comparably resourced international coalition of practical compassion is also needed to help with the building blocks towards a sustained peace in Iraq.
In the US military lexicon it seems “compassion” has been replaced by their missiles of choice.
Ms Gilmore also stated that Iraq was being run by a failed government and warned foreign powers not to be “complicit” in its neglect of the plight of normal Iraqis.
Further: “The international community must not allow itself to be made complicit with the failed leadership of Iraq … There is political paralysis in Iraq. There is no government in Iraq”, she stated blisteringly of America and Britain’s illegal, abortive, parliamentary project.
“Our commitment to Liberty is America’s tradition … We stand for human liberty”, concluded Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Were mistruths ever bleaker? And when will George W. Bush, Charles Anthony Lynton Blair and their cohorts answer for their crimes in a Court of Law?
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – During this week’s ‘Pessach’ celebrations from 22nd to 29th April, Israeli settlers and Israeli forces throughout occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) have been taking over Palestinians houses, rooftops, streets and entire areas while denying passage for Palestinians.
Last Friday night, with the start of the ‘holiday’, large groups of settlers were going from the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of al-Khalil, towards the Ibrahimi mosque, 60% of which has been taken over by the settlers that installed a ‘synagogue’ following the 1994 Ibrahimi mosque massacre; while Palestinians were stopped, frisked and delayed.
On Monday and Tuesday, Palestinians’ movement was entirely restricted and H2 was completely void of any Palestinian presence in order to facilitate the settler’s freedom of movement and to enable a space for the main ‘Pessach celebrations’. During these two days the checkpoint at the Ibrahimi mosque has remained closed, thus closing off the main entrance for Palestinians heading to the mosque. Palestinians were entirely barred from entering the mosque during these two days, while settlers used the additional 40% of the mosque that has so far remained for Palestinians – with the ‘usual’ entry restrictions and harassment by Israeli forces.
While bus loads of settlers from all over Palestine are arriving in the Old City of al-Khalil, new barricades, entry and movement restrictions for Palestinians are springing up throughout the city. Al-Faiha’a girls school, right opposite the parking lot used for the settler only buses, has been forced to finish early in order to at least attempt to provide a safe way home for the girls, despite the heavy army and settler presence. During Monday and Tuesday, a sharp decrease in the number of girls attending school was noted by both the teachers and international human rights defenders offering protective presence. Israeli forces have also taken control of two shops right next to the school building and turned it into a military base.
On Monday, Israeli forces escorted endless groups of settlers on a ‘tour’ through the main Palestinian market in the Old City during the busy noon hours – blocking the narrow alleyways while giving a Zionist version of the history of the city. Palestinians were stopped and forced to wait for the tours to pass. One Palestinian man was arrested while another one was seriously injured when settlers threw a rock into the Palestinian market hitting him right on the head.
Despite the area behind Shuhada checkpoint being H1 and thus supposedly under full Palestinian control, Israeli forces on Tuesday brought large groups of settlers, after ‘clearing’ the area for bombs, in a sheer show of their power and in total disregard of any (international) agreement. Shuhada checkpoint has during the ‘holiday’ season seen repeated and arbitrary delays, causing Palestinians to wait for, at times, hours to be allowed to go to their homes located in the ‘closed military zone’ while settlers were freely roaming the streets and could be seen from the checkpoint chit-chatting with the soldiers.
US Secretary of State John Kerry wants to draw “absolute” lines across Syria to create the Western “areas of influence” there. Such an approach resembles nothing so much as neo-colonialism, experts say.
The idea to create spheres of influence in Syria voiced recently by US Secretary of State John Kerry clearly indicates that Washington continues to pursue its Plan B in Syria.
In his interview with The New York Times editorial board Kerry narrated that the White House proposed to draw clear lines in Syria to the Kremlin.
“We’ve even proposed drawing a line, an absolute line, and saying, ‘You don’t go over there, we don’t go over here, and anything in between is fair game.’ And they are considering that, and I think we will get there in the next week or so,” Kerry told the editorial board.
However, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, such an approach is oversimplified.
“This approach is slightly simplistic. The principal goal is to fight against terrorism [in Syria],” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press conference on Monday, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
It should be noted that Kerry’s ‘offer’ followed the Saudi-backed High Negotiations’ Committee (HNC) decision to suspend its participation in the Geneva talks on April 21.
On that day most HNC members left Geneva in protest against the ongoing violence in Syria which they blindly blame on Damascus.
The HNC is well-known for its anti-Assad stance. However, by no means the entity represents the Syrian opposition as a whole. The HNC brought together Saudi-backed rebels in Syria, including notorious Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam groups which actually share the same Islamist ideology as Daesh and al-Qaeda’s affiliate al-Nusra Front.
A day after the HNC demarche Lavrov called attention to the fact that besides the HNC there are also the Moscow and Cairo groups, Hmeymim group and the group of independent opposition members which express their willingness to continue the dialogue with Damascus over the situation in Syria.”Some people have already left [the Syrian opposition’s] High Negotiations Committee [HNC]. They disagreed that radicals ruled the committee, including Jaysh al-Islam leaders. This fact confirms that we were right while proposing to include it in the list of terrorist groups… This group, as well as Ahrar ash-Sham are actively proving in action that they fully support those anti-humane, brutal approaches used by Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra [al-Nusra Front],” the Russian Foreign Minister underscored.
According to Elena Suponina, President of the Center for Asia and the Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, John Kerry’s offer to divide Syria into spheres of influence with Russia means that Washington now regards Moscow as an equal player in the Middle East.
In her Op-Ed for RIA Novosti Suponina recalls, that four years ago the Obama administration did not even bother to take Russia’s interests in the region into consideration.
However, in general, the White House continues to demonstrate a double-standard approach toward Syria and other regional players, according to the expert.
“It looks as if the colonial epoch and the times of re-division of the world by global powers have returned” Suponina writes, calling attention to the fact that Western policy-makers (most notably John Kerry himself) have repeatedly claimed that it is highly inappropriate to behave “in 19th-century fashion” in the 21st century.
And now Kerry proposes to draw “absolute lines” across the Middle Eastern region, she remarks, warning that Syria is “only the beginning.”
Kerry’s “fair game” in Syria will most likely prompt more destruction and devastation. Is Washington ready to take responsibility for chaos in the region?
On the other hand, Kerry’s proposal looks rather controversial since it was Russia, not the US that was invited to Syria by the legitimate Syrian government.
In his interview with Radio Sputnik political scientist Alexander Kamkin echoed Suponina’s stance.”Genuine peace still looks a way off and it looks like the Western nations still hope to implement the Libyan scenario in Syria… They use the war with Daesh as just a means of building large coalitions, but if you look at the previous such campaigns you will see that our American ‘partners’ rarely practice what they preach,” Kamkin told Radio Sputnik.
Hans-Christof Von Sponeck, former UN Assistant Secretary-General, expressed his concerns regarding the fact that Washington continues to conduct a “series of experiments” in Syria.
“The Americans are never short of experiment, never short of trying something new… It is jumping from one laboratory test to another, and in the meantime the country continues to go further towards a destroyed nation,” Sponeck told Russia Today.
Interestingly enough, it seems that there is no concordance in Washington regarding what to do next in Syria.
US President Barack Obama said Sunday that he does not support the idea of creating so-called “safe” or “buffer” zones in Syria as it would need Washington’s deeper military involvement in the region.
At the same time, Obama has signaled that 250 US Special Operation Forces troops will be soon deployed in the war-torn country.
People in the United States have “a lot of right to defend ourselves,” presidential contender Bernie Sanders said at a town hall meeting Monday when asked if he too would have an extrajudicial “kill list” like President Barack Obama. The senator from Vermont also endorsed Obama’s recent deployment of another 250 soldiers to Syria as part of the war against the Islamic State group.
“Look. Terrorism is a very serious issue,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “There are people out there who want to kill Americans, who want to attack this country, and I think we have a lot of right to defend ourselves.” However, the senator added, “it has to be done in a constitutional, legal way.”
The New York Times revealed in 2012 that President Obama hosts a meeting every Tuesday at the White House where he decides which suspected terrorists will be added to a so-called “kill list.” Those on the list can then be targeted for killing, typically with an unmanned drone.
“Do you think what’s being done now is constitutional and legal?” Hayes asked Sanders, noting the existence of “a list of people that the U.S. government wants to kill.”
“In general I do, yes,” Sanders replied.
Sanders, locked in a tight race with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, was also asked about President Obama’s decision to deploy another 250 U.S. Special Forces to Syria, where they are expected to help largely Kurdish militias fight the Islamic State group.
“Here’s the bottom line,” said Sanders. “ISIS has got to be destroyed, and the way that ISIS must be destroyed is not through American troops fighting on the ground.” However, “I think what the president is talking about is having American troops training Muslim troops, helping to supply the military equipment they need, and I do support that effort.”
“We need a broad coalition of Muslim troops on the ground,” Sanders continued. “We have had some success in the last year or so putting ISIS on the defensive, we’ve got to continue that effort.”
Sanders’ comments on the eve of primaries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connnecticut and Rhode Island demonstrate that while he may be less inclined to deploy the U.S. military than Clinton, who he has knocked for backing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he is no dove himself.
In addition to the the use of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and troop deployments in Syria, Sanders also supports extending the presence of roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and continuing airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that have likely killed more than 1,000 civilians, according to the independent monitoring group Airwars.org.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – At around 11.30am on Tuesday 26 April, heavily armed Israeli occupation soldiers and border police started appearing in large numbers through Shuhada checkpoint (also called checkpoint 56). This area is H1 area, supposedly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, where Israelis have no legal authority. In blatant disregard of this fact they proceeded to walk down Bir Saba Street, stopping at each shop demanding all cars on the street were removed, but did not make the shops close as they usually do. At the same time the soldiers closed Shuhada checkpoint for registered resident Palestinians, who could neither leave or enter to reach their homes.
The soldiers moved up and down the street, ensuring their demands were met and the cars removed. Where they could not find the owners, they broke into cars to search for explosives. While this was ongoing, more soldiers and border police arrived blocking off the road at the other end from the checkpoint. A sniffer dog was led up and down the street by the soldiers to also search for non existent explosives. The army rummaged around rubbish piles along the road, or made local shop keepers move rubbish for them to inspect, leaving a mess for the Palestinians to clean up.
Occupation soldiers searching for explosives outside local shops. Photo credit: ISM
Several hours later, having also made locals move off the road and sit on the pavement, the reason for this elaborate exercise was clear when a group of approximately 40 settlers, escorted by the same number of border police and soldiers, moved from the illegal settlement inside Shuhada checkpoint into Palestinian territory down the road to a clearly revered tomb, where they spent ten minutes or so. They were then escorted back into the illegal settlement, and followed by five subsequent groups of illegal settlers, again escorted by police and army.
Illegal settlers escorted by occupation soldiers and border police to the tomb in H1. Photo credit: ISM
Local and international activists were present at several points along the road to monitor and photograph events, and any incidents. When the settlers walked past several of them took photos and/or filmed the activists along the road, for unknown reasons. One settler asked where the internationals were from, and welcomed them to Israel. Not only was this factually inaccurate and a disregard of the Oslo agreement, but a highly insensitive and conflictual comment, made on Palestinian territory.
At three o’clock the “tours” were finished and all the settlers escorted back through the checkpoint into H2 area, where large groups of Palestinians live under Israeli military control. A day of trading was lost for the local shops keepers; not to mention that an Israeli incursion into a Palestinian area is illegal and unacceptable.
The establishment of the state of Israel is known throughout Palestine as the Nakba, or “Catastrophe.” As the British Mandate of Palestine ended throughout 1947 and 1948, at least 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from or fled their homeland, and another 100,000 or more were massacred.
Although the United States wasn’t an active party to the circumstances that led to the Nakba, the country’s long history with Israel has only been supportive of that nation’s barbarity — and that support has grown exponentially over the years.
In the U.S., the press framed Palestinian resistance as opposition to the Jewish state rather than an assertion of their own human rights. Scholar Michael A. Dohse wrote in “American Periodicals and the Palestine Triangle, April, 1936 to February, 1947”:
“Despite the fact that there was considerable evidence of the extreme nationalistic drive behind the Zionist movement, which was its motivating force, American journals gave a good press to the Zionists’ alleged goal of building a democratic commonwealth in Palestine. How this would be possible when the Arabs constituted two-thirds of the population and were opposed to Zionism, did not seem to be a relevant question to many of the magazines.”
This, of course, was in complete contravention of U.S. doctrine, even as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which asserts that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and “[t]hat to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The consent of the governed — in this case, the Palestinians — was not to be considered.
Pre-WWII, pre-state of Israel
Months before the Balfour Declaration was made in November of 1917, declaring British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson commented on the absolute need for self-determination. On May 27, 1916, he said: “Every people has a right to choose the sovereignty under which they shall live.”
Mr. Wilson continued his lofty rhetoric, telling Congress on Feb. 11, 1918: “National aspirations must be respected; peoples may not be dominated and governed only by their own consent.” Further, in the same speech on German-Austrian “peace utterances,” he declared: “Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action, which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.”
These and subsequent speeches by Mr. Wilson were troubling to his secretary of state, Robert Lansing. In his private journals, according to Frank Edward Manuel in his book “The Realities of American Palestine Relations,” Lansing wrote that such concepts were “‘… loaded with dynamite, might breed disorder, discontent and rebellion’. His neat, logical mind saw it leading the president into strange contradictions: ‘Will not the Mohammedans of Syria and Palestine and possibly of Morocco and Tripoli rely on it? How can it be harmonized with Zionism, to which the President is practically committed?’”
If the Palestinians ever relied on U.S. rhetoric to assist them in achieving the basic human rights that all people are entitled to, they were certainly to be disappointed.
Following World War II, the world was anxious to make some kind of reparation to the Jewish people for the Holocaust. U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, passed on Nov. 29, 1947, effectively partitioned Palestine into two states.
It is difficult to properly quantify the degree of injustice that this entailed. “Although Jews owned only about seven percent of the land in Palestine and constituted about 33 percent of the population, Israel was established on 78 percent of Palestine,” according to the Institute for Middle East Understanding. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes, with no voice in the decision that evicted them, no reparation for the loss of their homes and lands, and nowhere to go but refugee camps.
By this time, Harry S. Truman was president, and he offered full consent for this plan for reasons that will be familiar to readers today: He was subjected to intense lobbying by the Zionist lobby. He also felt that by supporting the establishment of Israel, he would be in a better position to be elected to a full term as president, having ascended to that office upon the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lobbying and political considerations then, as now, trump human rights every time.
Mr. Truman was elected president in his own right in 1948, and was succeeded four years later by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who named John Foster Dulles as his secretary of state.
Mr. Dulles was familiar with the Palestine-Israel situation, and his sympathies clearly rested with Israel. In 1944, he played an active role in seeing that the platform of the Republican Party included support for a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine, and also that the platform called for the protection of Jewish political rights. Years later, he exerted a strong influence on the president under whom he served, setting the tone for the Eisenhower administration’s attitude toward Israel and Palestine.
Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter
Things appeared to take a turn with the administration of John F. Kennedy, who showed support for the right of return for refugees, as described in Paragraph 11 of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 of Dec. 11, 1948. That resolution affirms that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Government or authorities responsible.”
Israel, under David Ben-Gurion, used what has become a tried and true method to oppose this measure: The state’s founder and first prime minister called it a threat to Israel’s national security.
Ultimately, Resolution 194 passed, but has yet to have any effect.
Despite his apparent support for Palestinian refugees, Mr. Kennedy was the first president to elevate the U.S.-Israel relationship from that of simply two allies to a more enhanced bond. Speaking to the Zionist Organization of America three months before his election, he said, “Friendship for Israel is not a partisan matter, it is a national commitment.”
Following Mr. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, he was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson, who did not share his predecessor’s interest in resolving the refugee problem. The Democratic Party Platform of 1964, the year Mr. Johnson was elected president, included a provision to “encourage the resettlement of Arab refugees in lands where there is room and opportunity.” All talk of the right of return ceased.
The Johnson administration ended in January of 1968, when former Vice President Richard Nixon was inaugurated as president. Nixon had less obligation to Israel, having earned only about 15 percent of the Jewish vote. In his memoirs, he commented on Israeli arrogance after the Six-Day War of 1967, describing “an attitude of total intransigence on negotiating any peace agreement that would involve the return of any of the territories they had occupied.”
Unfortunately for Palestine, however, Mr. Nixon’s closest advisor was Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security advisor and, later, his secretary of state. Mr. Kissinger’s parents had fled Nazi Germany shortly before the start of the Holocaust, and he had visited Israel multiple times but had never set foot in an Arab country. With Mr. Nixon’s preoccupation with what he considered the “Communist threat,” Mr. Kissinger was perfectly content with the Israel-Palestine status quo. “Rather than make any effort toward the Arab states, much less the Palestinians, Kissinger felt the United States should let them stew until they came begging to Washington,” according to “U.S. Policy on Palestine from Wilson to Clinton,” edited by Michael W. Suleiman. With this attitude, nothing was done to further the cause of justice under this president’s terms in office.
When Mr. Nixon resigned in a fog of controversy and scandal, his vice president, Gerald Ford, became president. He served as a caretaker president until the next election, when he was defeated by Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter.
Although Mr. Carter has recently become a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, this was not the case during his single term as president. He presided over the Camp David Accords, a two-track agreement that was supposed to bring peace to the Middle East. The first of the two dealt with Palestine, and nothing in it was ever achieved. The second led to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
After one term, Mr. Carter was defeated by former actor and California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Like Mr. Nixon before him, Mr. Reagan saw Communist threats everywhere. Fearing a Soviet stronghold on the Middle East, he determined that strengthening ties with Israel would be an excellent deterrent. In 1982, he declared that the U.S. would not support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, nor would it “support annexation or permanent control by Israel.”
Following First Intifada in 1987, Mr. Reagan sent his secretary of state, George Shultz, to solve the problem. Mr. Shultz proposed a three-pronged strategy: convening an international conference; a six-month negotiation period that would bring about an interim phase for Palestinian self-determination for the West Bank and Gaza Strip; talks between Israel and Palestine to start in December 1988 to achieve the final resolution of the conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir immediately rejected this plan, claiming that it did nothing to forward the cause of peace. In response, the U.S. issued a new memorandum, emphasizing economic and security agreements with Israel and accelerating the delivery of 75 F-16 fighter jets. This was to encourage Israel to accept the peace plan proposals. Yet Israel did not yield. As Suleiman’s work noted: “Instead, as an Israeli journalist commented, the message received was: ‘One may say no to America and still get a bonus.’”
When Mr. Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, succeeded him for one term, the bonus to Israel continued unabated. Yet this was still not enough for Israel. Writing in The New York Times in 1991, Thomas Friedman commented on the state of relations between the U.S. and Israel during the Bush administration: “Although the Bush Administration’s whole approach to peacemaking is almost entirely based on terms dictated by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the Israelis nevertheless see the Bush Administration as hostile.”
Clinton, another Bush, Obama
Following one term, Mr. Bush was succeeded by Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who surrounded himself with Zionists, including CIA Director James Woolsey and Pentagon Chief Les Aspin.
In March of 1993, following clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in both Israel and the Occupied Palestine Territories, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin closed the borders between Israel and Palestine. This had a drastic detrimental effect on the lives and basic subsistence for at least tens of thousands of Palestinians. The Clinton administration chose to look the other way as Israel perpetrated this unspeakable act of collective punishment.
The administration of George W. Bush differed little in its treatment of matters related to Israel and Palestine from those who came before it. When Hamas was elected to govern the Gaza Strip in 2006, Mr. Bush ordered a near-total ban on aid to Palestine. Noam Chomsky commented on this situation:
“You are not allowed to vote the wrong way in a free election. That’s our concept of democracy. Democracy is fine as long as you do what we say, but not if you vote for someone we don’t like.”
Coming into office chanting the appealing mantra of “Change we can believe in,” current President Barack Obama proved to be another in a long line of disappointments. Like his predecessors, he’s vetoed any resolutions presented at the U.N. Security Council that were critical of Israel. Incredibly, after one such veto, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice made this statement:
”We reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace.”
Meanwhile, military aid to Israel from the U.S. continued unabated. This aid has reached nearly $4 billion annually under the Obama administration, and is likely to get another boost before Mr. Obama leaves office.
This is not unusual. According to conservative estimates, the U.S. has given Israel a staggering $138 billion in military and other aid since 1949. In 2007, President George W. Bush signed the first 10-year Memorandum of Understanding, granting billions to Israel every year. Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu are currently negotiating the new deal, which the prime minister hopes will guarantee even more to the apartheid regime.
Change that can’t come soon enough
Even if it didn’t come with Mr. Obama, change does seem to be on the horizon. With the explosive growth of social media, the general public no longer relies solely on the corporate-owned media for information. The horrors that Israel inflicts daily on the Palestinians are becoming more common knowledge. This includes the periodic bombing of the Gaza Strip, a total blockade that prevents basic supplies from being imported, and the checkpoint stops and verbal and physical harassment that Palestinians are subjected to on a daily basis in the West Bank.
It’s even entered the current U.S. presidential election. Sen. Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, skipped the annual American Israel Political Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, convention in March. Additionally, he said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t always right and that Israel uses disproportionate force against the Palestinians, and Mr. Sanders recognized that Palestinians have rights. Like skipping the AIPAC conference, these statements are all in violation of some unspoken U.S. code of conduct for politicians.
Yet the ugly history of the U.S., in its unspeakably unjust dealings with Palestine, created a stain that generations will be unable to cleanse. Total disdain for the human rights of an entire nation, and the complicity in the violation of international law and in the war crimes of Israel, are not easy to expunge. Mr. Sanders’ words and actions are only the manifestation of a larger change occurring in U.S. attitudes toward Israel and Palestine. Once that change is sufficiently great to impact the U.S. power brokers, real change will occur. For Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid, it cannot come soon enough.
BETHLEHEM – Palestinian shop owners were forced to close their storefronts in Hebron Tuesday as Israeli politicians called for the annexation of the occupied city during visits by thousands of right-wingers for Passover.
Hebron local and prominent activist Issa Amro told Ma’an that Israeli forces instructed shopkeepers in both the H1 and H2 areas of Hebron to remain closed.
Amro said that by forcing shops to close in H1 — the area of the city under jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority — the Israeli authorities were supporting right-wing Israelis aiming to push Palestinian locals from the city.
“They want to make it look [to Israeli settlers] like Palestinians don’t live here,” Amro said.
The closures of shops in H1 is likely to come as a detriment to shop owners’ livelihoods while road closures typically implemented by Israeli forces during the visits will impede the movement of Palestinians throughout the Hebron district, Amro added.
The H2 area, under full Israeli military control, continued under lockdown as the Ibrahimi Mosque — known to Jews as the Cave of Patriarchs — was sealed to Palestinian Muslims for the second consecutive day as Israelis visited holy sites in and around the Old City, Amro said.
Amro told Ma’an that large groups of Israelis visiting the area under armed protection on Monday launched verbal abuse at Palestinian locals, and several Palestinian families refused to leave their homes out of fear of violence from the groups.
An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information on increased security measures or closure in the Hebron area for Passover.
Thousands of Israelis descended on Hebron’s Old City Monday as Israeli politicians held a rally in the center of the flashpoint area, under heavy protection by Israeli security forces.
Israeli media outlets reported that Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of the Habayit HaYehudi party called on the Israeli leadership to annex the occupied West Bank in its entirety.
“We have to connect Judea and Samaria to the State of Israel. We have returned to our land, so that we will never again have to leave it,” Ben-Dahan said, referring to the West Bank.
Knesset member Oren Hazan, of the Likud party, demanded Israel’s defense ministry allow more Jewish Israelis to settle in Hebron, referring specifically to two buildings reportedly purchased by far-right groups.
“The buildings in Hebron are the basis of peace, not dispute. The time has come to populate Hebron, just as the time has come to populate every hilltop in Judea and Samaria and in all of Israel,” the Jerusalem Post reported Hazan as saying.
Hebron — the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank — has long stood at the epicenter of violence in the occupied West Bank as the Israeli military and settlers attempt to expel Palestinians from their homes, particularly in the Old City where Monday’s rally took place.
The Israeli leadership has long ignored demands by the international community to halt settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, and the UN has in the past slammed Israel for expansion of settlements in Hebron’s Old City in particular, where increased Jewish presence has come at the detriment to Palestinian locals.
Emily Mulder contributed reporting from Bethlehem.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union at the University of California has been fighting to uphold a resolution passed to support the BDS movement against Israel. Its struggle has inspired other university unions to pass their own resolutions.
The UAW Local 2865, which includes some 14,000 students and teaching assistants working for the University of California, passed a resolution to support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in 2014, becoming the first major labor union to do so, with 65 percent voting in favor of divestment and 52 percent supporting an academic boycott among the student-workers union of the University of California.
“The University of California divest from companies involved in the occupation of Palestine; that UAW International to divest from these same entities; the US government to end military aid to Israel. Fifty-two percent of voting members pledged not to ‘take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel’ until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.” UAW Local 2865 Resolution
An anti-BDS arm of the union called Informed Grads appealed the result, with the help of Gibson, Dunn & Crutche, a law firm that has defended Walmart, Amazon and Chevron, Salon reports. The firm has represented Lockheed Martin, Boeing and other corporations that gain from Israel’s defense spending.
While the International Executive Board defended the integrity of the vote, saying it represented the will of the members, it claimed it could interfere with the flow of commerce and pointed to the possibility of discrimination, despite the number of Jewish and Israeli members that supported the resolution and later wrote a letter attesting to the fact.
Following the decision, lawyer Scott Edelman expressed pleasure at the UAW’s “forceful rejection of BDS, which sets a powerful precedent for other labor unions and national organizations.”
UAW Local 2865 appealed the decision, saying the “IEB improperly ignored the UAW constitutional mandate to solidify the labor movement and build solidarities with other unions, such as the Palestinian labor unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers who issued the call for BDS in 2005.”
The appeal has gone to the UAW Public Review Board who will make a final ruling in the next few months.
The nullification of the resolution has led to increased support for both UAW Local 2865 and the BDS movement among university staff.
UAW chapters at the University of Washington, Univeristy of Massachusetts Amherst and NYU wrote letters of support for the resolution, and went on to pass their own resolutions in April with Massachusetts securing 95 percent of the vote and NYU’s chapter taking 67 percent.
Both groups cited the nullification as a motivating factor for their own votes.
Jennifer Mogannam, a PhD candidate at UC San Diego and member of the union, told Shadowproof the attacks are “part and parcel of the larger Zionist movement’s suppression and attacking of those fighting for Palestinian self-determination and against Israeli settler colonialism.”
A recent BDS victory that saw security firm G4S announce it would end its contracts in Israel has caused Florida country club members to partake in their own boycott. The country club members are threatening to end G4S’s contract with their country clubs in a show of support for Israel.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Turkey exercises a “decisive influence” on the so-called opposition group High Negotiations Committee (HNC) which is in peace talks with the Damascus government.
Lavrov made the remarks on Monday while commenting on the progress of the latest round of negotiations between the Syrian government and HNC, which began in Geneva on April 13.
Syria peace talks are going on despite the absence of the Saudi-backed opposition as the group’s leaders left the talks on April 19 to protest at what they called escalating violence and restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria.
A ceasefire, brokered by Russia and the US, went into effect on February 27 across Syria. Fighting, however, picked up and left the truce in tatters. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has agreed on a six-month deadline for drafting a new constitution for the Arab country in line with the proposal of the International Syria Support Group.
“In order to come to terms over six months it is necessary not to slam the door and dig in heels, as several delegates of the so-called Riyadh group have done, Lavrov said, adding that “it’s no secret” that Turkey has a “decisive influence” on them.
“So one should not come for talks with ultimatums but should sit down at the negotiating table and reach an agreement,” Lavrov added, noting that the situation at the UN-brokered talks could have been better if HNC had not left Geneva.
The top Russian diplomat also said that Moscow was preparing a report for the UN Security Council to extend the list of terrorist groups in Syria.
“We are currently collecting information that Jebhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) subjugates groups that seemed to have declared truce and readiness to join ceasefire,” Lavrov said, adding, “We will summarize facts and present them to [the] UN Security Council to adjust terrorist lists.”
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Damascus says Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are the main supporters of the militants fighting the government forces.
According to UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, some 400,000 people have lost their lives as a result of over five years of conflict in Syria.
Forces loyal to Saudi-backed ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and Emirati troops have reportedly overrun Mukalla after al-Qaeda militants left the seaport in southeast Yemen.
Reuters quoted residents as saying that local clerics and tribesmen negotiated with al-Qaeda to exit quietly and that militants withdrew Sunday westward to neighboring Shabwa province.
They said there was no fighting after Saudi-backed units mobilized their forces at Mukalla’s suburbs. However, the official Saudi news agency SPA claimed on Monday that more than 800 al-Qaeda members had been killed.
Around 2,000 pro-Hadi and Emirati troops reportedly advanced into Mukalla, home to an estimated 200,000 people, taking control of its maritime port and airport and setting up checkpoints.
Mukalla has been the center of a rich mini-state that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) built up over the past year. The group took control of an almost 600-km (370-mile) band of Arabian Sea coastline.
Once faded into irrelevance, AQAP has gone from strength to strength in Yemen since Saudi Arabia began its ferocious military campaign against the impoverished neighbor.
Al-Qaeda and other Takfiri groups such as Daesh have become stronger as Houthis – their arch enemy in Yemen – have come under the heaviest Saudi attacks for more than a year.
The Rai al-Youm newspaper on Monday pointed out that Saudi Arabia had supplied weapons to al-Qaeda militants in the Abyan and Hadhramaut to confront Houthi fighters.
The paper, edited by prominent Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan, wrote that Saudi Arabia had decided to retake Mukalla from al-Qaeda in the face of rising criticism in the West of the fallout of the invasion.
The decision was also linked to a US congressional motion to hold the Saudi ruling family accountable for potential roles in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it added.
Pro-Saudi forces, however, retreated from Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province in south Yemen, after they entered it on Saturday night.
A bomb-laden vehicle exploded Sunday killing seven pro-Hadi militants who had launched an offensive with the help of Saudi air power.
“The withdrawal was decided following information that al-Qaeda was preparing other car-bomb attacks against our troops,” AFP quoted a pro-Hadi officer as saying.
The alleged recapture of Mukalla coincided with UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait after a ceasefire entered into effect on April 11, but from which Takfiri groups are excluded.
There was no immediate official reaction to the reports from Houthis and their allies who are to hold their fifth day of peace talks on Monday in a bid to end 13 months of war.
More than 9,400 people have been killed and at least 16,000 others injured since Saudi Arabia launched its airstrikes against Yemen last March.